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Nuclear Reactors

Volume 602: debated on Thursday 19 November 2015

My hon. Friend will be aware that the Government are committed to an expansion of new nuclear power, which is a vital part of our work to build a clean, affordable, safe and reliable energy system for the future. The industry is taking forward proposals to build six new nuclear power plants, providing 18 GW of low carbon power in the UK. We are in regular contact with it.

Following the recent welcome announcement that China will be involved in the provision of new nuclear, will my right hon. Friend reassure the House and my constituents that all proper safety and security measures will be taken, and that a robust mechanism for monitoring such will be in place?

Yes, I can absolutely reassure my hon. Friend. Safety in our nuclear plants is of paramount importance. Any operator of a UK nuclear plant must meet the UK’s stringent safety and security regulations, which are enforced by an independent regulator. They provide a whole range of controls, including safe and secure operation, consumer protection, security of UK supply and enforcement of contractual obligations.

I wish the Government would apply their horror of subsidies to the nuclear sector. The Secretary of State’s response to the cross-party objection to the departmental minute on Hinkley fails to address concerns that rather than a £19 billion liability on the public purse, Hinkley may in reality mean an eye-watering £45 billion bill for householders and taxpayers. That is just for one new power station that will not boil a kettle for another decade. At the very least, does she agree there must be a full Commons debate on the issue and an independent examination of the costs before proceeding?

The hon. Lady can, of course, use the normal methods for encouraging a debate. There have been many already. Hinkley Point offers low carbon affordable energy that is highly cost-competitive with clean energy sources. The point is that it is base-load. The UK bill payer will not have to pay a penny until it is actually generating. That is very good value for the UK bill payer.

First, I would like to congratulate the Secretary of State on her masterly speech yesterday.

Does the Minister agree that we need a mix of energy, including nuclear, which I am pleased to say we have in my area of Somerset, as well as solar and wind? It has to be a balance, it has to be at the best cost and it has to be about innovation, which will, in itself, create the sorts of jobs in the energy sector that Opposition Members are worried we are losing.

My hon. Friend is exactly right. We need an energy mix, which is exactly what we are achieving and what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State set out in her speech yesterday. I was delighted to visit Hinkley Point last week and see the enormous pride and excitement in the area about the prospective jobs and work in the supply chain and the huge investment in the area. It is really good news for the UK and our energy security.

Will the Minister remind the House how much the Government are spending on nuclear decommissioning and explain why it is the one sector to which market discipline does not seem to apply?

The hon. Lady will know that the UK has an enormous nuclear legacy dating back to the 1940s and ’50s. A huge amount of work is being done at Sellafield and other sites to dispose safely of that nuclear waste. As she will know, the budget is extremely large—in the region of £3 billion—but that money is being spent to deal safely with this very long legacy. I can assure her, however, that new nuclear creates far less waste. We are planning a geological disposal facility to make sure that future taxpayers have nothing like that legacy to deal with.